It seems like such a good idea. We wonder why no one thought to lop the roof off a Ford GT before Kip Ewing, engineering supervisor for package and advanced concepts at Ford's SVT division, made it happen.
Those of you with long memories (or a GT40 fetish) will recall that Ford produced five open GT40s in 1965. Four were roadster versions of the existing coupe, and the other was the X-1, a wild, long-nosed, 427-cubic-inch V-8-engined machine with a cut-down windshield that was made for the United States Road Racing Championship. None were very successful, but the X-1 was rebodied to look like a Mark 2 roadster, in which guise it won the12 Hours of Sebring in 1966, driven by Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby.
Ewing is wild about that car, so he set about persuading his SVT bosses to make a roadster based on the current GT. "I did a bunch of renderings," he says, "plus a chop job on a 1:18-scale model. Then I went to [SVT boss] Hau Thai-Tang, proposed it as a SEMA [Specialty Equipment Market Association] car, and he OK'd the idea." By making the car for the SEMA show, Ewing says, "we could do things more aggressively than we can inside the system-we could just go off and do it."
Ewing then approached Genaddi Design in Green Bay, Wisconsin, a coachbuilding company that specializes in converting Rolls-Royce Phantoms. "I had known [owner] Mark Gerisch for years," Ewing says, "and it seemed natural for him to do it."
The modifications are remarkably simple and effective. Obviously, the roof is gone, replaced by a four-piece targa/T-top affair that neatly retains the lines of the coupe's door cutouts. The doors, the B-pillar, and the rear deck have been subtly modified. The deck has a new supercharger cover and a pair of fairings that look like rollover hoops. To accommodate these changes, the upper spaceframe members in the engine bay have been moved slightly. A new front trunk lid was made in carbon fiber. Ewing says that removing the roof "means that we take a big hit in torsion and bending, but it's still as good as most convertibles that are engineered from scratch."
Inside, Sparco retrimmed the GT seats with French seams, and Ewing chose "a nice technical surface, like a pair of Wolford tights," for the rear bulkhead and center tunnel. Ewing's fifteen-month-old son, Lucas, was asked to choose a paint from among four different models, and he plumped for the gorgeous Valencia yellow you see here, a color made famous by the Bud Moore Trans-Am Boss 302 Mustangs. (It's more like orange, but we'll humor Ford.)
There are a number of mechanical tweaks, including adjustable Multimatic coil-over dampers and a one-inch-lower ride height. Brembo floating front brake discs are fitted, although the stock calipers remain, painted silver. The stunning nineteen- and twenty-inch front and rear wheels-up an inch in diameter and shod with 245/40 and 315/35 tires-are meant to evoke the "1960s Halibrand era," according to Ewing. The engine gained a Borla exhaust from the Ford performance parts catalog and now sports polished cam covers.
The resulting car looks fantastic. From the front, it is almost identical to the regular GT, but the rear end looks very different: slimmed down, it has a hint of Porsche 904 about it.The lower ride height also makes the car look more dramatic.
Inside, the X1 feels smaller than a stock GT, possibly because you notice how close your head actually is to the top of the windshield. At 70 or 80 mph, the airflow seems well managed, with no buffeting around the back of the cockpit. Put the windows down, though, and there's plenty of air flowing through the cabin, which is no bad thing on a glorious fall afternoon. The biggest difference in the way the two cars drive is aural: the regular GT's engine noise is almost too muted, to the extent that you hear the fuel injectors clacking away, whereas the GTX1 mixes a glorious, full-blooded V-8 roar from out back with a relatively muted supercharger whine closer to the cockpit.
Most GT owners won't go for the $38,000 X1 conversion, because it reduces the GT's sublime chassis poise. But more extroverted owners who live in the sunshine states might be tempted to swap some dynamic prowess for the additional posing appeal.
It seems a little sad that a company as large as Ford couldn't find the wherewithal to do this project in-house, but the GT project probably seems like old news to the recent arrivals in the company's upper management, because it's due to run its course at the end of 2006. In the near future, we don't expect to see anything else this exciting coming out of Ford, which makes Ewing's and Gerisch's handiwork that much more admirable.